I don’t know if I’ve talked about it here on JALC, but there was a stretch of time during my Philly years that I became a low-grade devotee of short-form improv. All of which is a somewhat pretentious way to say I took a few classes, did a few student shows, and attended the occasional improv “playdate” with other amateurs who just wanted to keep to fun of the practice going.
But one of the reasons I’m drawn towards the more pretentious phrasing around being a “devotee” is the way in which studying improv during those few years was absolutely transformational for my life, my career, and my psychological health. This is not hyperbole: legit transformed.
This should surprise exactly no one in my circle of acquaintance, but I’ve historically had a tendency towards perfectionism now and again.(1) There have been so many times in my teens years, college years, grad school years, and in the start of my non-profit career that I’d let that perfectionism jam me into a corner of inaction. Metaphor this as an internal editor going at Hulk strength, or as having a paralytic level of self-judgement.
So improv, with its generative mode of yes/and was such a valuable practice for me. The freedom and training around that did so much in helping me get that internal editor offline. And that had some amazing payoffs in helping me be more comfortable in my skin and happier with myself in all kinds of unexpected ways. Considering where I started in my self-judging days, I take a real pleasure in knowing that one of the things I’m able to offer my workplace nowadays is the ability to generate new ideas and draft text for projects, with little ego or investment in how many revisions happen after that. Facing the terror of the blank page and just getting something—anything—down to help the creative process get underway. It’s an odd little blessing in life to know how that kind of courage is now one of my professional specialties.
And I know without a doubt that I owe that personal and professional growth to the power of yes/and.
Alas, looking ahead at my work responsibilities and travel schedule for the next few weeks, I think I have temporarily left the land of yes-and for a sojourn on the island of either/or. I anticipate having enough time most days(2) to do one self-caring/fun thing for myself each day.
One, but not two.
The rest of that time is going to be needed to get some necessary things done, from laundry, to packing, to out-of-office-hours working.(3) So last night’s thing was yoga class, and tonight’s is writing here on JALC. One or the other, but not both. At least not now.
If I’m lucky, I might spot things that will prompt what I used to call “quick hit” posts: posts where I am not so much writing substantive or thoughtful things, but instead am doing drive-by commentary on some pop culture detail that caught my fancy or summoned some irresistible snark. (Examples one and two from back in the day.) Or, I’ll have enough nights where other flavors of self-care take precedence over writing that I’ll have to reduce my 2019 posting goal—once (foolishly) 365, now 300—to an even lower figure.
Guess we’ll see how this shakes out.
(1) And again and again and again….
(2) Not all, but I’m hoping for most.
(3) The bane of many (all?) non-profit professionals’ existence.